Lesson 13 June 21-27
The Two Gates
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Prov. 14:12; 25:28; John 17:3; Luke 13:24; Gal. 2:20; Matt. 11:28; Heb. 12:2, 3.
MEMORY TEXT: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matthew 7:13)
KEY THOUGHT: God desires His children to prosper--spiritually, mentally, and physically. In His Word, He outlines the prescription for happiness. By following God's plan, we can choose happiness--both in this world and in the world to come.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." So wrote Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Not Taken."
The concept of two roads or gates--one being broad and appealing, the other, narrow and foreboding--is common to both secular and religious literature. Usually the metaphor of two ways refers to our struggles with self-will, in opposition to God's will.
In an age when many Christians feel satisfied in merely possessing some vague notions about God's promise of forgiveness and salvation, Adventists stand out in vivid contrast to that. Our message speaks not only of the desirability of but also the possibility of real character development--now, in this life. We believe that God daily offers both the pardon and the power we need to effect Christlike changes in our lives.
Choice and taste can undermine our ability to live a Christlike life. The more these are indulged selfishly, the more difficult it is to perceive the right decision in any given situation. This is what happened to the Pharisees. Unbeknownst to them, Satan had substituted his values and characteristics to the point where those leaders behaved more satanically when they thought they were doing God's will.
Psalm 1. speaks of the two roads traveled by the godly and ungodly. What indication do we see that makes one way pleasurable and the other one painful?
God respects freedom, but there are consequences to our acts. "All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 139.
On the contrary, the narrow road can be rewarding. "God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. ...
"It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer. All heaven is interested in the happiness of man. Our heavenly Father does not close the avenues of joy to any of His creatures. The divine requirements call upon us to shun those indulgences that would bring suffering and disappointment, that would close to us the door of happiness and heaven."--Steps to Christ, p. 46.
What thoughts do you find in Colossians 3:1,2 that help you choose the right gate?.
The devil tries in so many subtle ways to get us to set our affections on the things of this earth. He is capable of doing whatever it takes to distract us from heavenly things. His seductive lure is to promise so-called happiness, yet he does not tell us of the terrible price he will exact from us. For what he calls fun will not only leave us with a bitter taste in this life; it will eventually cost us eternal life.
On the other hand, Christ offers us genuine happiness and abundant life that not only leaves us with a good taste in this life, but also leads us to eternal life with Him.
Can you recall a time in your life, when something seemed right to you at the moment, but later you discovered the contrary? How can the Lord help you cope with such subtleties?
People who will go to heaven do not think identically on every religious subject. Each individual has specific spiritual needs; each may emphasize a different aspect of a given doctrine. However, these varied emphases must all fit on a spectrum of truthful Bible interpretation. It matters, for instance, that we believe in the mortal nature of man and in the resurrection, rather than in the immortality of the soul.
What thoughts in Luke 24:25-27, 44-48 help us to understand what the correct interpretation of Scripture has to do with entering the gate of life? What central focus must all such interpretation have?
"In the road to death the whole race may go, with all their worldliness, all their selfishness, all their pride, dishonesty, and moral debasement. There is room for every man's opinions and doctrines, space to follow his inclinations, to do whatever his self-love may dictate. In order to go in the path that leads to destruction, there is no need of searching for the way; for the gate is wide."--Thoughts From the Mount of BIessing, p. 138.
In the wide gate it not only doesn't matter what we think, it happens not to matter whether we think at all. Or we allow others to think for us and pull us in their direction. Peer pressure plays a big role here: do what is popular, follow the crowd. "Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves."--The Great Controversy, p. 595.
Why does it matter that we understand Christian doctrine? John 8:32. What is the truth? (compare 1:17; 14:6).
"The position that it is of no consequence what men believe is one of Satan's most successful deceptions. He knows that the truth, received in the love of it, sanctifies the soul of the receiver; therefore he is constantly seeking to substitute false theories, fables, another gospel."--The Great Controversy, p. 520.
Are your religious beliefs inherited, or are they established through personal Bible study? Where do Christ and the Holy Spirit fit in your quest for the truth?
A person without self-control has two spiritual problems: from without as well as from within. Such a person is like a city without walls that succumbs to external enticements and attacks from all sides. On the inside, he or she is like a collapsed city that has no inward strength to resist.
The Christian's argument against such phenomena as drugs, alcohol, hypnotism, and spiritualism rests in a belief that these violate an individual's ability for self-determination. The potential for personal fulfillment is related to the amount of self-discipline one has. Christians find success in self-discipline by surrender of their will to God.
How does the will help us in the battle against self? As you study
2:12, 13, discover what is God's part and our part in this.
"The Christian life is a battle and a march. But the victory to be gained is not won by human power. The field of conflict is the domain of the heart. The battle which we have to fight--the greatest battle that was ever fought by man--is the surrender of self to the will of God, the yielding of the heart to the sovereignty of love. The old nature, born of blood and of the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The hereditary tendencies, the former habits, must be given up."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 141.
What spiritual insights do you gain from the study of as far as temperance (self-control) and its culminating the list of all the graces of the fruit of the Spirit is concerned? Galatians 5:22, 23 as far as temperance (self-control) and its culminating the list of all the graces of the fruit of the Spirit is concerned?
"But to control one's self does not simply mean living a life of denial and deprivation. We should not approach it from a negative perspective, but a positive one. Rather, it means that God is in control of our lives, for we belong to Him by creation and redemption. And His control enables us to have true self-control over our lives."--Philip G. Samaan, Christ's Way to Spiritual Growth, p. 185.
How much time do you spend in prayer and Bible study, seeking to understand the will of God? How much do you let Him help you to fulfill His will in your everyday life?
We live in a time of de-emphasis on striving to live the life of loving obedience to God. Yet Luke says, "Strive [Greek: agonizomai, from which the word agonize comes] to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (13:24). It is amazing how much people strive to succeed in a career, win a prize, make money, yet how much do they strive for their eternal salvation? Christians live in spiritual defeat because they hardly give God a chance compared to what they give other pursuits. Imagine what would happen in their spiritual lives if they reached out to God with such interest and striving! "I press toward the mark," Paul writes, "for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).
Commenting on this, Ellen White suggests: "I have stated before them [God's people] that, from what was shown me, but a small number of those now professing to believe the truth would eventually be saved--not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God's own appointed way. The way marked out by our divine Lord is too narrow and the gate too strait to admit them while grasping the world or while cherishing selfishness or sin of any kind."--Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 445, 446.
What do you see in the following scriptural passages to prevent you from
striving after righteousness in the sense of attempting mere salvation by
We need to strive and press on, yes, but only in the strength of the Lord. We need to fight the fight of faith, where it really counts, to maintain our union with Christ. Such will be accomplished only through much prayer and daily submission of ourselves to Him.
What does Micah 7:7-9 say that can help you understand how you can strive and yet remain absolutely dependent upon God?
"When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man's best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit."--Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 382.
The secret of spiritual victory is found in Christ's personal invitation "Come unto me." He wants us to go to none other but Himself. And when we go to Him in submission, He will teach us His ways of finding true rest and restoration.
It is paradoxical but true that the denial of self enhances personal freedom and, therefore, peace and satisfaction. Not that the denial of self means living a shriveled and shallow life; on the contrary, if we come to Christ, He will make us free indeed, and help us develop and reach His wonderful ideals for us.
Compare Philippians 2:3 with Matthew 11:28 regarding the lowliness of heart. What impact would having such lowliness in the heart have on our lives and endeavors?
"There are many whose hearts are aching under a load of care because they seek to reach the world's standard. They have chosen its service, accepted its perplexities, adopted its customs. Thus their character is marred, and their life made a weariness. In order to gratify ambition and worldly desires, they wound the conscience, and bring upon themselves an additional burden of remorse."--The Desire of Ages, pp. 330, 331.
What is our only true help in walking the narrow road of this life's challenges? Where should our focus be? Heb. 12:2, 3.
It was for the joy of saving us that Christ endured the shame and the cross. What a wondrous thought! He endured all of that for you and me. This is so overwhelming that it moves us to endure for the joy of seeing Him face to face in glory. It is focusing on Him that will help us go on despite the weariness and trials.
"Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. ... The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. ...
"In the heart of Christ, where reigned perfect harmony with God, there was perfect peace. He was never elated by applause, nor dejected by censure or disappointment."--The Desire of Ages, pp. 329,330.
How can you learn from Christ not to be "elated by applause, nor dejected by censure"? What difference would this make in your life and the lives of people around you?
FURTHER STUDY: Read Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 84; Child Guidance, p. 484; The Great Controversy, pp. 520-523, 528; Christ's Object Lessons, "First the Blade, Then the Ear," pp. 65, 66.
One of the great principles of Christianity is that God wouldn't ask His friends to do anything He would not do. Jesus' life reveals this to be true. God asks of His creatures only that which is for their best possible good. But for many this concept is difficult to accept. Few have believed Christ's words, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Few have transferred what they think about the Son to what they think about the Father.
"If we ever attain unto holiness, it will be through the renunciation of self and the reception of the mind of Christ."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 143.
Jesus lived God's values. By accepting, as Ellen White suggests, the "mind of Christ," we accept His confidence in the values of the kingdom of God.
Note this gracious warning: "He who feels whole, who thinks that he is reasonably good, and is contented with his condition, does not seek to become a partaker of the grace and righteousness of Christ."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 7.
"There are many in the broad way who are not fully satisfied with the path in which they walk. ... They look toward the narrow way and the strait gate; but selfish pleasure, love of the world, pride, unsanctified ambition, place a barrier between them and the Saviour. ... They desire the good, they make some effort to obtain it; but they do not choose it; they have not a settled purpose to secure it at the cost of all things."--Thoughts From the Mount of BIessing, p. 143.
1. How does a person accept the mind of Christ?
2. What is the key to victory in the Christian life?
3. There are two paths, the broad way and the narrow way. What is the difference between the two paths? Is it always possible to tell which path we are traveling?
SUMMARY: God, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, has made it possible for us to receive salvation. It is offered as a free gift, and we can choose to accept it or reject it. The road to heaven, however, is a narrow one. To travel that narrow road safely, we must be willing to lay aside the baggage of sin and self and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
For years Leonid Kozlov lived a double life. A skilled pop music singer and guitarist, he enjoyed a wide following when he performed. But Leonid had a dark side. He had created a twisted theology that convinced him that God was helping him to steal from others, including his friends, and not get caught. Leonid was a thief.
He wore a good luck charm, a crucifix, around his neck on a golden chain. He believed this crucifix would protect him. One night while walking alone, Leonid was attacked by a stranger. In the moonlight he saw the man's knife being raised above his head. Instinctively, Leonid raised his hands to deflect the blow. He felt the sting of the knife on his hand, then on his chest. In a split second Leonid's life and his sins flashed before him. He fell to the ground, and the attacker fled. He lay there several seconds, thinking that his end had come. Then he managed to get up and struggle home. His mother washed the blood away while they waited for an ambulance. In the hospital the doctor cared for his wounds.
The next day Leonid noticed that his crucifix was badly damaged. The blade of the knife must have hit it. As Leonid examined his lucky charm, he thought, There is a lesson here for me. This crucifix saved me yesterday. God has given me another chance to live. I must obey Him. Leonid burst into tears as he considered his wicked life in the light of God's mercy. Leonid began to search for answers to his spiritual questions.
Several weeks later Leonid learned about a series of Bible lectures being held in the city. He attended faithfully. Night by night he thrilled to the new truths he was learning from the Bible. In Jesus he found new hope and a new purpose in life. The Holy Spirit brought conviction to his heart. He gave his life to Christ.
Leonid began sharing his new life in Jesus with others. Instead of singing pop music, he began singing songs to God's glory in churches and evangelistic meetings. But even this was not enough. He enrolled in the seminary and now pastors in the city of Omsk in Russian Siberia. His testimonies fill the hearts of people who are searching for God's truths in these last days.
James Zachary is director of evangelism for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.
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